Providing small-groups for students is a fundamental piece of the comprehensive school counseling program at Pacific Crest Middle School. This approach enables our counseling department to provide direct services to students in need of extra academic and social/emotional support. Developmentally, at the middle school level, students tend to grow more in a positive direction in a small-group setting vs. individual because they are learning from each other. Our small-group services are aligned with our vision, mission, and program goals. We use academic, behavior, and attendance data, as well as self-referrals, referrals from teachers and parents to form the groups throughout the school year. Our data reflected a clear need for various small groups, including an academic success group, an anxiety group, a group to help students feel connected to school, and a body image group.
When developing lesson plans for groups, the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors drive the content. We look at which Mindset or Behavior we are focusing on for that lesson, and develop the content appropriately. For example, when developing lessons for our Academic Success group, one of the lessons focused on M 2, Self-confidence in the ability to succeed, and B-SMS 5. Demonstrate perseverance to achieve long- and short-term goals. Based on these two, we developed a lesson that was centered around goal setting. Students took time to develop academic goals and the steps needed to achieve them in the hopes this would increase self-confidence to succeed. In order make sure that our perception data is linked to Mindsets and Behaviors we are targeting for groups, we utilize the "Developing Perception Data" template provided by ASCA. This allows us to develop "know, can, and believe" statements that hit on the attitudes, knowledge, and skills we are working to develop.
Once the focus of each group was selected the counseling team divided up which counselor was going to run each group. Each counselor was responsible for screening for the group they were going to facilitate. During the screening process we asked questions about interest level, asked students to expand on their hopes for the group, talked to students about why they were identified for the group, and gave out permission forms with a group outline. We capped our small-groups at six students and were conscious of grade level and identified gender. We planned the sessions on different days of the week and alternated which class period the groups were offered in order to reduce the amount of class time students were missing.
The data results for our small groups will help us to deliver groups more effectively in the future by encouraging us to start small-groups earlier in the year and when to offer these groups. In addition, upon reviewing the data, we discovered areas where we need to provide more psycho-education, specifically around anxiety. Another realization that we had is, to collect more accurate data, it would be helpful to have students participating in the group complete a quick exit ticket at the end of each group. By doing this, we will be able to more accurately gauge what students are gaining from the group.
The results from our small groups led us to the conclusion that small-groups were successfully facilitated and positively impacted student success. Our counseling department has every intention to continue implementing more small-groups, using data, needs assessments, and staff referrals. We strive to focus our attention on preventative services for students and the data reflects that small-groups are an excellent platform for prevention.